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Lace the air with LSD

Mike Jay: Brain Warfare, 4 February 2021

Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control 
by Stephen Kinzer.
Henry Holt, 384 pp., £11.99, November 2020, 978 1 250 76262 7
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... It​ was during the fallout from Watergate that the American public first heard of MK-Ultra, the most notorious of the secret mind control programmes that the CIA ran through the 1950s and 1960s. After Nixon’s men were caught breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in June 1972, Richard Helms, then director of the CIA, refused to help with the cover-up ...

The Unpredictable Cactus

Emily Witt: Mescaline, 2 January 2020

Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic 
by Mike Jay.
Yale, 297 pp., £18.99, May 2019, 978 0 300 23107 6
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... substance has been described more thoroughly and from such a variety of perspectives,’ Mike Jay writes in his new history, Mescaline. Its use in the Americas dates back thousands of years. It was the first psychedelic analysed by Western scientists, and in the early decades of the 20th century the only substance of its kind available to ...


John Barrell: Dr Beddoes, 19 November 2009

The Atmosphere of Heaven: The Unnatural Experiments of Dr Beddoes and His Sons of Genius 
by Mike Jay.
Yale, 294 pp., £20, April 2009, 978 0 300 12439 2
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... it’ (Coleridge had wanted the commission himself, but would probably never have completed it). Mike Jay’s new book on Beddoes is fascinating, exciting, entertaining, where Stock’s is dull, dull, dull. And yet the more I enjoyed it, the more I began to revise my opinion of what Stock achieved, though perhaps not to the point where I will feel ...


Deborah Friedell: The Heart and the Fist, 24 May 2018

... complaining that he’s such a ‘paragon of virtue’ that he scuttles Joe Klein’s book Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home – the ‘heroes’ are Eric and a few others, but mostly Eric. It’s not that the reviewer doubted Eric’s wonderfulness, just that he seemed a little dull: Consider Eric Greitens, a former Rhodes ...

Deal of the Century

David Thomson: As Ovitz Tells It, 7 March 2019

Who Is Michael Ovitz? 
by Michael Ovitz.
W.H. Allen, 372 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 0 7535 5336 7
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... in the mid-1970s no one in the motion picture business was more focused than Michael Ovitz. ‘Mike’ from the San Fernando Valley was an incessant, soft-spoken maker of order and system, a godfather with no god other than success. No one was more prepared or implacable in negotiation. That closed smile was a lever with which to open a bottle, or a ...

At the Wellcome

Will Self: Bedlam, The Asylum and Beyond, 17 November 2016

... but only really for people who are too restless to read the book published in association with it. Mike Jay’s superb This Way Madness Lies (Thames & Hudson, £24.95) is as good a book on the subject as I’ve read – and I’ve read a few. Jay co-curated the exhibition, but it’s here, between stiff boards rather ...


Jay Griffiths: The Mayday protest in London (2000), 22 June 2000

... There’s a hopeful proposal to float a maypole down the Thames. Several people want an ‘open mike’, an impromptu ‘People’s Parliament’. About forty people attend the RTS meetings, the majority of them men. They include environmentalists, social justice campaigners, socialists and anarchists. There are three rather stiff rules: no smoking, no ...

Kindergarten Governor

Gary Indiana: It’s Schwarzenegger!, 6 November 2003

... Peter Ueberroth. By no coincidence, Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy – on the Jay Leno Tonight show – on the day Issa withdrew. It was clear from the outset that if a ‘No on Recall’ vote supporting Davis failed to pass by even a slight margin, only a fraction of the votes cast for Davis would be enough to elect one of the alternative ...

On the Salieri Express

John Sutherland, 24 September 1992

Doctor Criminale 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 343 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 436 20115 1
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The Promise of Light 
by Paul Watkins.
Faber, 217 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16715 2
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The Absolution Game 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 204 pp., £13.99, June 1992, 0 09 471460 6
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The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman 
by Louis de Bernières.
Secker, 388 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 436 20114 3
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Written on the Body 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Cape, 190 pp., £13.99, September 1992, 0 224 03587 8
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... a good deal.’ In form, Doctor Criminale is an old-fashioned quest novel. Francis Jay, a young British journalist – trained in deconstruction and cultural politics at Sussex – is left high and dry when his paper (evidently the ill-fated Sunday Correspondent) folds. Following a disastrous Booker ceremony at which he comports himself on ...


Inigo Thomas: Michael Wolff’s Book Party, 8 February 2018

... bar. I leafed through a book I had just bought, Greater Gotham, the second volume of Mike Wallace’s history of New York from the Spanish-American War of 1898 to the end of the First World War, and I read the pages about Greenwich Village – these were the years when the Village became the bohemian quarter of the city. Then, on my way back to ...

Act One, Scene One

David Bromwich: Don’t Resist, Oppose, 16 February 2017

... make it through those four years.’ Or consider the message read out to Vice President-elect Mike Pence by the cast of Hamilton after he attended a performance: ‘We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable ...

The Fight for Eyeballs

John Sutherland: The Drudge Report, 1 October 1998

... is). They could be reported by the mainstream press, as quoted ‘allegations’. Word of mouth, Jay Leno and the cartoonists would do the rest. When (as he has recently been doing rather often) Matt Drudge addresses journalists’ conventions he likes to strike a crusading pose. He foresees, as he told the National Press Conference of 2 June, ‘an era ...

The Hell out of Dodge

Jeremy Harding: Woodstock 1969, 15 August 2019

Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music 
by Michael Lang.
Reel Art Press, 289 pp., £44.95, July 2019, 978 1 909526 62 4
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... at the Glen, a racetrack 150 miles from the original site. Performers included Miley Cyrus and Jay-Z. A few wrinkly legends, including the Zombies and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin famously turned down the offer to play fifty years ago) were also billed, alongside veterans from the founding festival: Santana, David Crosby, Country Joe McDonald, the remains of ...

The Inevitable Pit

Stephen Greenblatt: Isn’t that a Jewish name?, 21 September 2000

... with dubious opinions about race relations and strong regional enthusiasms. (My father’s cousin, Mike Greenblatt, wrote a well-known football song: ‘I’m a rambling wreck from Georgia Tech, and a hell of an engineer.’) Another relation ventured out west, with his wife and two small children, to try his hand as a pedlar in Wyoming. This was the occasion ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie, 5 April 2012

Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... he’d styled himself as a Mod, a hippy and a Buddhist; he’d called himself Davie Jones, David Jay and David Bowie (after Richard Widmark’s portrayal of Jim Bowie in The Alamo, though he pronounces it the southern English way, the first syllable rhyming with ‘snow’ rather than ‘shoe’ or ‘cow’). Whatever it took. One of the things Trynka’s ...

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